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The Cluster as Market Organization

  • Peter Maskell
  • Mark Lorenzen

The many competing schools of thought concerning themselves with industrial clusters have at least one thing in common: they all agree that clusters are real life phenomena characterized by the co-localization of separate economic entities, which are in some sense related, but not joined together by any common ownership or management. So hierarchies they are certainly not. Yet, it is usually taken for granted that clusters, almost regardless of how they are defined, all expatriate the 'swollen middle' of various hybrid 'forms of long-term contracting, reciprocal trading, regulation, franchising and the like' residing somewhere between hierarchies and markets. This fundamental (but usually implicit) assumption would, perhaps, be justified if markets could be reduced to events of exchange of property rights, between large numbers of price-taking anonymous buyers and sellers supplied with perfect information as they are commonly conceived in mainstream economics. One of the original attractions of Neoclassical price theory was precisely that it promised a way of analysing the economy in general and market exchange in particular independently of specific institutional settings. However, introducing transaction costs as more than fees paid to intermediaries leads inevitably to comparative institutional analysis and, not to be forgotten, to the perception of markets as institutions with specific characteristics of their own. Some sets of characteristics are so common that they represent a specific market organization or market form. The cluster is one such specific market organization that is structured along territorial lines because this enables the building of a set of institutions that are helpful in conducting certain kinds of economic activities. Supported by empirical illustrations the paper argues that clusters are markets where commodities, services and knowledge are traded in a notably efficient way among the insiders without restricting their abilities to build pipelines and to interact with suppliers and customers residing elsewhere. The institutions characterizing this market form help creating an environment among insiders that reduces the barriers to acquiring and utilising knowledge produced or used locally.

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Paper provided by DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies in its series DRUID Working Papers with number 03-14.

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Date of creation: 2003
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Handle: RePEc:aal:abbswp:03-14
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